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Asia Minute: Australia’s Lumber Shortage

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The coronavirus pandemic has had a grim impact around the world from the loss of life to the collapse of many businesses. But it’s also led to disruptions in some unexpected places—including Australia’s lumber industry.

Demand for lumber in Australia has skyrocketed—in part because more people are remodeling homes, trying to create more living space since the onset of the pandemic.

Australia also has a federal program called “Homebuilder” which includes grants for people building or renovating their houses.

All of that demand is coming at a time when the country’s forests are still recovering from massive bushfires of late 2019 and early 2020.

One result: the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quotes industry figures showing demand for lumber is running ahead of supply by about 15%.

And an increase in construction projects around the world is creating issues with imports—there’s a shortage there as well.

ABC says some sawmills are working around the clock while others are having their production interrupted because of a lack of access to lumber.

The domestic building boom has taken many in the industry by surprise, and the supply chain issues are not just with wood.

There are reports of shortages of materials from bricks to roofing iron.

Industry leaders are asking to meet with several cabinet ministers to plan a response to the ongoing disruption—no word yet on any policy decisions from the federal government.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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